Robert Sapolsky: How a Chair Revealed the Type A Personality Profile

December 3rd, 2016

Robert Sapolsky explains how several apparently unrelated things — most especially a chair — led to new understanding about why certain kinds of people were suffering certain kinds of medical problems:


(Thanks to Joanne Manaster for bringing this to our attention.)

NEXT POST: Can words have meanings?

The man who wants you to realize that reality is unrealistic

December 2nd, 2016

A professor cooks up some computer simulations, which convince him to try to convince everyone that reality is unrealistic. Amanda Gefter interviewed the professor, for The Atlantic magazine: “The Case Against Reality“.


NEXT POST: Type A personality from a chair?

Chimps Recognize Butts That Are Upside-Down, Too

December 2nd, 2016

A new study builds on prize-winning do-chimps-recognize-buttocks research, adding an upside-down appraisal:

Getting to the Bottom of Face Processing. Species-Specific Inversion Effects for Faces and Behinds in Humans and Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes),” Mariska E. Kret and Masaki Tomonaga, PLOS ONE, November 30, 2016. The authors, at Leiden University, the Netherlands, and Kyoto University, Japan, build on work, by other researchers, that won an Ig Nobel Anatomy Prize:


“In four different delayed matching-to-sample tasks with upright and inverted body parts, we show that humans demonstrate a face, but not a behind inversion effect and that chimpanzees show a behind, but no clear face inversion effect. The findings suggest an evolutionary shift in socio-sexual signalling function from behinds to faces, two hairless, symmetrical and attractive body parts.”


Leiden University issued a press release that gives further colorful details.

The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for anatomy was awarded to Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends. They describe that research, in the study “Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception“, Frans B.M. de Waal and Jennifer J. Pokorny, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 1, 2008, pp. 99–103.

Frans de Waal was pleased to see his Ig Nobel-winning research confirmed by this new study, he told the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant: ‘Ik ben blij dat deze nieuwe studie dat bevestigt‘.

NEXT POST: Is reality really unreal?

A tradeoff that comes with romantic dating

December 2nd, 2016

Ig Nobel Prize winner Dan Ariely muses on a tradeoff that comes with romantic dating:

Dan Ariely often wonders at the simultaneous existence of reality and the illusions that come with and modify that reality. The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to Dan Ariely, Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shivof, and Ziv Carmon for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine. (That research is documented in the study “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.)

NEXT POST: Upside-down chimp-butt appraisal?

Computer games: Should they be taken seriously or unseriously?

December 1st, 2016

That can depend, to quite a degree, upon whom you ask.

“A serious game is a name given to computer software that tries to achieve just that. While some people think that serious games and games for learning are synonymous, digital games can be used for ‘serious’ purposes other than learning. Serious games can be used for motivating people to exercise more. Serious games can be used for medical treatment. Serious games can be used as a marketing tool. These are just a few examples, and we will illustrate various application areas with many actual serious games in this book.”

The book in question is ‘Serious Games : Foundations, Concepts and Practice’ – Eds. Ralf Dörner, Stefan Göbel, Wolfgang Effelsberg, Josef Wiemeyer, Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.

On the other hand, explains Professor Bart Simon [pictured right] of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada,

prof_bart_simonThis article initiates a provocation for a collective discussion of what we might call an unserious epistemology for the study and design of games. How can we find ways of taking the unseriousness of games seriously? Starting with the idea that most players take their games much less seriously than game studies scholars, I reflect on the importance of the idea of unseriousness for the theorization of gameplay as a sociocultural activity of last resort in a contemporary world defined by the grave seriousness of life.”

See: ‘Unserious’ in the ludological journal Games and Culture, September, 2016.

NEXT POST: Is there anything wrong with romantic dating?